Times Square: Too Many People, or Just Too Many Cars?

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Why is Times Square so crowded?

An article in yesterday’s New York Times considered that question, asking real estate brokers if businesses might be shying away from the area due to packed streets and sidewalks. According to a survey cited in the article, 68 percent of Times Square office workers say congestion is the top reason they would consider working elsewhere.

Though not everyone the Times spoke with shared his opinion, Robert L. Sammons, a researcher for a commercial brokerage firm and resident of 42nd Street, is concerned.

"I hear a lot of talk about how it’s just so congested in Times Square, and office workers really loathe the area because of that,” he said. "I’ve heard that for a while, but it seems I hear it more and more lately."

Older, crowded buildings are one thing, but at street level, rather than being a "victim of its own success," as the Times puts it, maybe Times Square is a
victim of inequitable allocation of public space. That doesn’t roll
off the tongue quite so nicely, but as pavement-hogging vehicles spread from curb to curb, city pedestrians continue to be crammed into the margins from Park Slope to Penn Station — and, of course, points north.

Ironically, as pointed out in the story, one of the primary reasons Times Square is so popular is its status as a major transit hub, bringing in millions of people who must fight with cars, trucks and, consequently, each other, once above ground.

Relief could be on the way, though.

Now a plan, financed by the city and headed by the Times Square Alliance, is being developed to alleviate the growing pressure from pedestrian and vehicle traffic in Times Square by widening and redesigning its central plaza, Duffy Square, where the TKTS discount booth is located. More details are to be announced in the next couple of months, and further work is expected to begin in the spring of 2009 to manage the success of Times Square.

Sounds like a job for a certain Danish urban consultant.

Photo: midweekpost/Flickr

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